Ten keys to a win-win event for attendees and advisors alike.
David Schlossberg remembers 2007 fondly, and not just because it was a period of relative calm before a financial firestorm erupted the following year. In 2007, Schlossberg, a financial and investment advisor with Assured Concepts Group, Ltd., of East Dundee, Ill., made a concerted push on the seminar front, a move that here in 2012 continues to pay major dividends to his practice.
Schlossberg figures the clients he landed as a result of the educational seminars he held throughout 2007 generate about $160,000 in annual revenue for himself and his firm.
“Not bad,” he says, “for a $60,000 investment.”
Done the right way, seminars remain a valuable client- and revenue-generating vehicle for all kinds of advisors, from investment advisors and wealth managers to financial planners and insurance specialists.
Non-hard-sell seminars designed to educate people about the federal government’s Social Security program and how to manage their Social Security benefits have become a go-to marketing tool for Joe Elsasser, CFP, founder of SocialSecurityTiming.com and Sequent Planning, LLC, in Omaha, Neb. “It’s hard to gauge ROI exactly, but I get anywhere from two to four new clients from among the 20 to 30 people who attend each seminar,” he says. “There’s not been a seminar where I haven’t covered the cost of putting on the event.”
How can you stand out in a crowded (some would say oversaturated) seminar field and generate a stellar ROI in the process? While every advisor ultimately must find his or her own formula for success, here are some proven tactics for standing out on the seminar circuit:
1) Make enriching attendees through education your top priority, not enriching yourself. “A lot of seminars that claim to be ‘educational’ are self-serving,” observes Elsasser. “My goal is truly to educate people—to give them the framework for making decisions by showing them the trade-offs involved in those decisions.”
According to Schlossberg, new clients—and the added revenues they bring—tend to flow naturally from seminars where attendees sense there is no overt sales agenda on the part of the sponsor. “Success comes when you truly deliver information that is of benefit to the audience, without any effort to sell anything,” he says. Schlossberg added an extra wrinkle to the educational thrust of his seminars by charging attendees a tuition fee of $69 for the two-day workshops that proved so successful for him five years ago.
2) Find a seminar topic that appeals to your target audience. A subject such as Social Security, for example, intrigues a broad range of seniors.
3) Align with a well-respected organization or institution. Both Schlossberg and Elsasser have had success holding seminars at local universities. Prospects may be more receptive to attending a seminar when the invitation bears the name of a local college as a kind of implied endorsement. Before sending out invitations that bear an educational institution’s name, be sure they have been approved by officials at the institution, adds Schlossberg.
Leveraging organizational and professional relationships to build interest in a seminar is an effective way to get qualified attendees and weed out non-qualified ones, according to John Freiburger, CLU, AEP, ChFC, CFP, principal at Partners Wealth Management in Naperville, Ill. “Our experience is that in the affluent, high-net-worth marketplace, general marketing to the public just doesn’t work anymore. We would rather have an endorsement from some other organization, or even better, from a law firm or an accounting firm.”
“Success comes when you truly deliver information that is of benefit to the audience, without any effort to sell anything.” ~ David Schlossberg, Assured Concepts Group, Ltd.
4) Build a well-rounded, multidisciplinary program that includes other professionals who complement your skills and services. “It has worked very well for us to bring in one or more advisors, like a CPA or an estate planning attorney, to speak,” explains Freiburger. “It’s a way, I think, to legitimize an event and to make it more comprehensive. It also demonstrates [to attendees] that this is how we work—that on their behalf, we are willing to work as a team with other advisors who have expertise in a specific field.”
Cross-pollination of clients is another benefit of teaming with other professional advisors on a seminar, adds Freiburger. Such an event can expose the sponsoring advisor to another participating advisor’s clients or prospects “in a very low-key way.”
What’s more, in the name of cost efficiency, the advisors and firms involved in a seminar also can share the cost of putting on the event.
5) Time the event right. Because they’re targeting attendees who are still working as well as those who are retired, both Freiburger and Elsasser say it’s important to offer options, such as by holding a seminar during the daytime, then again in the evening that same day, or holding an event on a weekday evening and repeating it on a weekend day.
6) Keep a handle on numbers. Thirty to 40 is an ideal number of attendees for a seminar, says Freiburger. In crowds larger or smaller than that, people tend to get uncomfortable asking questions—and interactivity is vital to a successful seminar.
7) Help attendees get comfortable with you, your firm and your value proposition. The less sale-oriented and more valuable attendees find the content of a seminar program, the more comfortable they’re likely to get with the advisor(s) on the program and their firm(s), says Freiburger. “It’s about making friends and showing you have some value to offer them.”
“My goal is truly to educate people—to give them the framework for making decisions by showing them the trade-offs involved in those decisions.”
~ Joe Elsasser, SocialSecurityTiming.com and Sequent Planning, LLC
But advisors can benefit in that scenario, too, he adds. “Inevitably one of those clients is going to be compelled to stand up unsolicited and say something good about us and what our firm has done for them.”
9) Leave the door open for attendees to reconnect. It’s important to give seminar attendees a reason—and a means—to seek further advice. Rather than pushing attendees to commit to a follow-up appointment on the spot, Schlossberg offers them a 90-minute consultation as part of the tuition price. Likewise, Elsasser suggests to attendees that if they want a complementary follow-up consultation, they can request one at the bottom of the survey form they’re asked to complete at the close of the event.
10) Follow-up tactfully. In the same low-key, low-pressure vein, Freiburger suggests reaching out to seminar attendees with a follow-up phone call, either from the advisor or the advisor’s assistant (who also should be present at the event so attendees are familiar with him or her). Wait until the second day after the event to reach out, he advises, so the advisor and the firm don’t appear too anxious (or perhaps even desperate) to land the prospect’s business. But don’t wait too long (a week is too much), lest the prospect turn cold.
That’s one of the seemingly small seminar details that can pay big dividends down the road.